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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces an early test in his pledge to improve Canada-U.S. relations after the White House on Friday rejected the Keystone XL pipeline project after seven years of review.

The Obama administration said no to the controversial project just two days after Mr. Trudeau was sworn in as Canada’s prime minister. While not a surprise, the decision represents a setback for Canada’s key energy sector, which is reeling from lower commodity prices and has encountered many hurdles in trying to move landlocked crude to new markets other than the U.S.

Under former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ottawa placed...

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